What is Sustainable Travel?

Ask almost anyone about sustainability and the first thing they think of is recycling. Now ask that same person about sustainable travel and you may get "umm... I save water because I don't have the hotel give me new towels daily". Although the examples above are correct the true principles of sustainability encompass way more than protecting the environment.


Along with event planning, I have always loved the travel and tourism industry. So when trying to figure out what I would study in college. I was fortunate enough to land in Colorado State Universities Warner College studying Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism. I continued to get my Masters from the same college in Tourism Management. Ok, so why is that important? Unlike most traditional Hospitality and Resort Management programs, I was given a LARGE dose of sustainability training.


So what is sustainable tourism? As George N. Wallace guru in sustainable tourism outlined sustainable tourism is the six following principles:


1)Minimize Impact. If you are an outdoor enthusiast you have heard of "leave no trace behind". The same applies well to everywhere else. When you travel be respectful of what you do and how you do it. For example, I was fortunate enough to live off of the beach for a summer. I worked with resort guests as an Activity Director. It was painful to see guest dry out sand dollars and starfish. Why? These creatures are really important to the eco-system and keeping the coastline in check. "Starfish are predators, and they’re probably the most important predator in the shallow ecosystem –the depths where we would dive or swim. They eat basically anything that they can come across. Their feeding activities control the whole ecosystem." (Scince Learn, 2009) For this reason, it was illegal to collect live samples, but many guests didn't care. Eventually, with that continued attitude the beach will not be the same for future generations.


2)Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect. Everyone likes to have fun on vacation but when it comes down to it... don't be an ass hat. Just because you paid for a vacation does not mean you're entitled to be rude and disrespectful. Respect the locals and their traditions. You know the golden rule "Treat others the way you would like to be treated".

"Don't be an ass hat."

3)Provide positive experiences for both visitors and host..... See the ass hat comment above. Really though your actions can adversely affect locals and future visitors. For example Machu Picchu, Peru has enacted stricter controls on entry into the ancient Incan ruins. This is because so many travelers were visiting the beautiful site and wandering off the trail, touching things they shouldn't and ruining the ruins (pun intended).


4)Provide direct financial benefits for conservation. For example, I most recently watched a documentary on National Geographic. The documentary about Wildlife Tourism and how poorly elephants, among other animals, where being treated in the name of tourism. They where being beaten, stabbed, left with broken bones, and more. All of this was to discipline a wild animal into giving tourists a ride on their back. Now I am not saying all wildlife tourism is bad, however, in that same country, there are true elephant sanctuaries that let you get up close with elephants but treat them with kindness. So why not minimize the negative impact and put your money into something that is having a having a positive impact. (National Geographic, 2019)


5)Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people. The same reason we are encouraged to shop local with small businesses in the USA is the same reason when you go abroad you should shop with local merchants. Next time you are traveling shop with a local vendor or stay at a locally owned hotel.

"Shop local and with small businesses".

6) Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate. Be aware of what's going at your destination of choice. If people and the environment are being mistreated take that into consideration.


Resources:

EcoTourism.org

National Geographic (2019) "The Hidden Cost of Wildlife Tourism"

Science Learn (2009) "Role of Starfish",

Legrand, Willy, (2012) Sustainable Hospitality and Tourism as Motors for Development

Wallace, George N (n.d.). toward a principled evaluation of ecotourism ventures. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale F&ES Bulletin



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